My friends, Jane and Travis, just got married. Initially, they were planning on a cruise in the Caribbean for their honeymoon. They’ve never been on one and Jane thought it would be the best of both worlds: legitimately fun and kitschily ironic. Travis was on board (so to speak) but he had reservations. He is a community activist in our city and he kept worrying that a cruise was just too wasteful, predictable, and commercial. I agreed with Travis but since it wasn’t my honeymoon I stayed out of it. Then I remembered: they’d never been on a cruise before! I, on the other hand, have been on several. Each one was a family vacation, paid for by my grandparents, and each one seemed more quintessentially American than the last. The ships were like giant malls complete with expensive cocktail bars, clothing shops, and fake plants. Sure, the accommodations were comfortable but it all felt so generic, so spring break, if you know what I mean. My experiences have left me rather jaded about the whole cruise thing and I didn’t want my friends to be disappointed. The more I thought about it, the more I realized I had to say something.
Ecuador is the perfect storm when it comes to biodiversity. The high Andes Mountains, it’s tropical location on the equator, and two major ocean currents along the coast create microclimates for a dazzling array of wildlife. Not only is Ecuador home to 25,000 species of plants, 1,600 species of birds (more than half of the 3,000 species found in all of South America), 369 species of mammals, 350 species of reptiles, and 800 species of fish, it is also home to the legendary Galapagos Islands, the inspiration behind Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species. Many of these animals are found nowhere else on Earth. They are unique and precious, both ecologically and scientifically. There is so much we can learn from these creatures and they are disappearing before our eyes.